Block Story is an RPG game by MindBlocks Studio LLC for PC (currently in Early Access on Steam), and it might fairly be described as a variation on the theme of such voxel game mods as Pixelmon (which has been described as “Minecraft Pokemon”). It has more of a fantasy twist, but many of the same elements are present. After creating a new world (story, creative, or hardcore modes are available), you, the player, are spawned in a location with nothing but (presumably) the clothes on your back. You must gather supplies, fight enemies, and build using the supplies around you. You level up as you play in story mode, which allows you to do more with your surroundings. Like Pixelmon, there are animal and monster spawns all around, and they’re very highly-detailed. Lionfish, lizards, spiders, and even dragons dot the landscape, and all of them can be killed for experience, though only specific creatures will actually chase you.
There are also in-game NPCs that offer to sell you items, trade labor for tips and power-ups, and even fight some of the aggressive creatures when they get too close. NPCs will attack you, which I found out the hard way. I had to create a new game because I accidentally smacked “Ted” with a pickaxe when I was trying to collect on our trade. How did I click on him while holding a tool? The inventory system (which is quite a bit like Minecraft, though the function of creation is a bit different) is a row of boxes at the bottom of the screen, tied to numbers on your keyboard. I had no open inventory spaces, and was trying to switch to something innocuous like a block of sand (it wasn’t working, and I still don’t know why), and suddenly, Ted was chasing me. He killed me three times, and I lost all of my progress. For a low-level character, this is not an ideal situation, and frustrated me greatly.
Gameplay is relatively simple. The movement in-game is standard WASD with the mouse to look around, and whenever you select an inventory item via hotkey (1-5 on the number row), you will be holding that item in your right hand. Left click to use that item as a weapon (i.e. smack it against things), and right click to place items; not all items can be placed, unlike in Minecraft, but most items can be used to craft other things. Crafting is done by first creating a “toolbox,” then placing that toolbox and combining items in appropriate patterns on-screen to make usable objects. Specific instructions for crafting are included in the tutorial, which I strongly recommend completing, as there are other aspects of crafting that are extremely confusing and non-intuitive. There is, however, a “recipe book” in the toolbox that can help you build other things.
There are hotkeys for viewing your character stats (F1 – Block Story has a points system when you’ve leveled up to strengthen different aspects, such as weapon handling and the ability to stay underwater longer), taking screenshots (F3), viewing your quest log (F2), and seeing the game menu. The game only tells you that F4 = menu, so the rest of the hotkeys must currently be found manually. There is also a hotkey to fly (F, naturally), which you can do for increasing distances and heights as you level up.
The graphics are quite good in terms of textures – the animals are fairly photo-realistic, the people look like actual people, and the plants are very detailed. However, the fact that the block textures are on, well, blocks may make it visually confusing to navigate, especially at night (which lasts about twice as long as day). However, the sky design is gorgeous, and you may spend more time wandering around looking up at the stars than you do trying to survive.
The water in this game is somewhat “janky” at the moment. In an effort to create waterfalls and flowing, dynamic streams, the developers have inadvertently created literal hills made out of water, some of them with large air pockets underneath where the player can wander around normally without any air loss, while fish swim around them. Since this is an early-access build, I presume it will be improved in future updates.
The sounds in-game are as one would expect. The animals make appropriate noises, the dragons roar, your footsteps and jumps change depending on the surface you’re on, and water occasionally splashes. There is music in the menu screen that’s fairly pleasant, but in-game, there are only the sounds of your environment.
This game strives to be a new type of RPG, and with their voxel-based world, MindBlocks has certainly achieved that. The game has also come a very long way in the time it’s been developed. However, something about voxels+RPG doesn’t jive. It may be because blocks are more difficult to navigate on/around than more smoothly-rendered terrain, and the jumpiness of the character when attempting to accomplish simple tasks makes everything more time-consuming, and a bit more difficult than perhaps it should be (at least at the beginning of the game). It is hard to control difficulty settings in a randomly-generated world when your quests are based on the environment; the learning curve, as a result, is a bit steep.
Block Story is a fair middle ground for those who like RPGs, but who also enjoy sandbox games such as Minecraft. At $9.99, I do feel it is worth giving this game a try if you’re a big fan of RPGs AND sandbox games. If you go into it expecting more of one or the other, you may be a bit disappointed. This game has hundreds of hours of gameplay opportunities, so if you enjoy it, it’d be a worthy purchase.